Will Eisner’s The Spirit at Kitchen Sink (pt. 3)

« See? Brute force triumphs after all!!! » — Mr. Fly (Jan. 11, 1942)

While Kitchen Sink’s ambitious chronological gathering of Eisner’s post-WWII The Spirit was intended to clean up and organize the series after decades of random, piecemeal reprinting, it was still a bit of a mess, at least early on. The methods of reproduction varied from issue to issue, and even within issues: three of four of issue one’s stories carry the original newspaper shadings, while one (« Hildie ») is newly-coloured and grey-toned. However, the folks at KSP can’t be faulted for this chaos: it all hinged upon which stories’ original line art remained in existence. Through it all, the publisher remained commendably hopeful but realistic and honest about the prevailing realities and conditions.

EisnerKS_Spirit01A
This is The Spirit no. 1 (Oct. 1983, Kitchen Sink). Colours by Pete Poplaski, grey toning by Ray Fehrenbach. Four tales are featured: The Christmas Spirit (Dec. 23, 1945), by Eisner and John Spranger; Dead End (Dec. 30, 1945), by Eisner, Spranger and Bob Palmer; Hildie (Jan. 6, 1946), by Eisner and Alex Kotzky; and Dolan’s Origin of the Spirit (Jan. 13, 1946), by Eisner, Spranger and Palmer.
EisnerKS_Spirit04A
This is The Spirit no. 4 (March 1984, Kitchen Sink). Colours by Poplaski, grey toning by Fehrenbach. Four stories within, all by by Eisner, Spranger and Palmer: Nylon Rose (Mar. 17, 1946); The Last Trolley (Mar. 24, 1946); Yafodder’s Mustache (Mar. 31, 1946); and The Kissing Caper (Apr. 7, 1946).
EisnerLastTrolley02A
Here’s a fine example of the careful colour work executed by grey tinter Poplaski and colourists Fehrenbach (in this case) and Mike Newhall, taking evident pains to avoid overwhelming Eisner’s detailed line work. In terms of old-fashioned colouring, this was a notch (or seven) about what was being done in mainstream comics in the 1980s, a period of technological changes, of magnificent highs and painful lows. This is page two of noir classic The Last Trolley (Mar. 24, 1946), from The Spirit no. 4.

The colour question elicited ever-churning controversy and budgetary woes in the face of steadily diminishing sales. By issue 9, the custom colouring was abandoned to make way for the rather more economical, but muddy laser-scanning of original Spirit sections, and an extra story was added to issues 10 and 11; then inside colour was jettisoned for good, with gray toning retained. But issue size was reduced to 6 1/4” x 9 3/4″ (as opposed to the traditional comic book format, which is, as we all know, 6 5/8″ x 10 1/4″) for issues 12-16.

Denis Kitchen sums up the situation very aptly, circa issue 4, late in ’83:

« … the current color comic market demands a more sophisticated reprinting of these stories. There is nothing sacred about the original color. Though Eisner experimented boldly with color, he generally left coloring to assistants, and much of it was handled in a pedestrian manner.

We shoot these stories, where possible, from original art in Will Eisner’s archives. Where stats, negatives silverprints or other proofs are the only source, we use the best existing copies. Our colorists, where possible, use the original sections as color guides and are concerned with authenticity and precedent. Color changes, gray tones and other ‘augmentations’ are made with the approval of Will Eisner. »

EisnerKS_Spirit11A
This is The Spirit no. 11 (Aug. 1985, Kitchen Sink). For this final colour issue, five stories, all by by Eisner, Spranger and Palmer: The Haunt (Oct. 27, 1946); Beagle’s Second Chance (Nov. 3, 1946); Caramba (Nov. 10, 1946); Return to Caramba (Nov. 17, 1946) and Coot Gallus (Nov. 24, 1946)
EisnerKS_Spirit17A
This is The Spirit no. 17 (Mar. 1986, Kitchen Sink). Colours by Poplaski, grey toning by Fehrenbach. Four stories within, all by Eisner and Jerry Grandenetti: Be Bop (Apr. 20, 1947); Ev’ry Little Bug (Apr. 27, 1947); The Fix (May 4, 1947), and The Fortune (May 11, 1947).
EisnerKS_Spirit19A
This is The Spirit no. 19 (May 1986, Kitchen Sink). Colours by Poplaski, grey toning by Fehrenbach. Four stories await within, each by Eisner, Grandenetti and letterer Abe Kanegson: Black Gold (June 15, 1947); Hangly Hollyer Mansion (June 22, 1947); Whiffenpoof!! (June 29, 1947), and Wanted (July 6, 1947).
Spirit22A
This is The Spirit no. 22 (Aug. 1986, Kitchen Sink). Colours by Poplaski, grey toning by Fehrenbach. Presenting a quartet of tales by Eisner, Grandenetti and Kanegson: A Killer at Large (Sept. 7, 1947); Into the Light (Sept. 14, 1947); End of the SS Raven (Sept. 21, 1947), and Orson Welles lampoon UFO (Sept. 28, 1947).

If you’ve just caught us mid-swing, nothing to worry about: earlier entries are at your beck and call as follows :

… or point and click on our general category, That’s THE SPIRIT!, and beckon everything at once… but in reverse chronological order; that’s the price you pay for convenience.

-RG

 

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